TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
A Dakota Ojibway Police Service vehicle crosses a bridge over a swollen creek after checking on evacuated houses on the north side of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation northwest of Brandon on Monday. The creek spilled its banks on Sunday, swamping the bridge and forcing the evacuation of nearby homes. By Monday, the water level had dropped a fair bit, but the bridge remained closed to traffic pending a structural examination.
SIOUX VALLEY DAKOTA NATION — Days of heavy rain and wild winds were enough to significantly damage 15 homes and force nearly 140 residents out of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.
Buildings in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation are surrounded by water on Monday after flooding due to heavy rainfall over the weekend. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
By Monday afternoon, several roads were washed out and 15 homes located across a bridge on the north side of the community were surrounded by water and were evacuated along with several others near Oak River.
Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan said the community declared a state of emergency on Sunday afternoon after a weekend of wicked weather wreaked havoc on the community.
"The rain was significant, the wind was something we hadn’t seen in a while," Tacan said. "We were lucky we declared a start of emergency as early as we did."
The storm system flooded several basements, submerged multiple vehicles in water, damaged roofs and strong winds even blew in some windows, he sad.
"We’re talking about houses that were flooded within a matter of minutes," Tacan said. "Some of the people that were evacuated were carrying kids on their backs walking through a foot and a half of water.
"They basically just left with the clothes on their back."
Ken Essie, whose home is located near Oak River, said he was evacuated to Brandon on Saturday along with several other evacuees. Essie came back to check on his home on Monday morning and grab some extra clothes and groceries.
"I just wanted to come back," he said, sitting behind the driver’s seat of his blue pickup truck. "There’s a couple feet of water in there."
Essie has lived in Sioux Valley for most of his life and said he has never seen his community under so much water.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen here."
Volunteers were busy Monday pumping water surrounding the community’s school, and Tacan said they were focusing their efforts on assessing the damage and figuring out how they were going to pay for it.
While insurance will cover some of the costs for damaged homes, other expenses "will be an additional hardship for the band."
"This is a setback for us," he said. "There isn’t enough money to fix everything."
Tacan said they’ve been in touch with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and plan to apply for disaster assistance relief once an overall assessment of the damage has been done.
Rainfall and runoff waters also overburdened the community’s sewer system, and Tacan said some light fixtures in the community’s health centre were dripping water.
"The houses have been saturated for so long, any additional rain just goes into the house," he said. "It’s something we didn’t need at this point."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 2, 2014